Reasoning with a toddler

Unfortunately, just saying no doesn’t always work with an unreasonable toddler. Have you ever found yourself in deep negotiations with your toddler over whether he can wear his spiderman costume to crèche for the third day in a row? Have you taken the “walk of shame” out of the local shop after your toddler threw a temper tantrum on the floor? There may be comfort in knowing you’re not alone, but that doesn’t make figuring out the early years of parenting any easier.

Toddlerhood can be a particularly frustrating time for parents because it is the age when your little angel starts to become more independent and discover themselves as individuals. Yet they still have a limited ability to communicate and reason.

They want to make their mark on the world and assert themselves in a way they didn’t when they were a baby. The problem is they have very little self-control and they’re not rational thinkers- which is a challenging combo!

Here are a few simple toddler strategies to help make life easier for you when your self-asserting toddler needs direction.

Be consistent

Order and routine will give your toddler safety and security from what they view as an overwhelming and unpredictable world. Routine can also lead to them being better behaved and calm because they know what to expect.

Focus on having consistent nap times, mealtimes, and bedtimes as well as playtime when your toddler is free to just run around and have fun. If there is a change in the routine, let them know in advance.

Consistency is also important when it comes to reasoning with a toddler. Saying the same thing the first, the second, third, and fourth time your toddler is miss behaving will make the message clear, and it will eventually sink it.

Avoid stressful situations

By the time your little one has reached the toddler stage, you’ve spent enough time with them to know what sets them off! The most common ones are hunger, sleepiness, and quick changes of location or as mentioned above, a change in their routine. So just avoid these potential meltdown scenarios with a little advance planning.

Put yourself in their shoes

Think like a toddler! Toddlers aren’t mini-adults. They have trouble understanding many of the things we take for granted, like how to follow directions and behave and seeing the scenario from a toddler’s perspective may help prevent a tantrum.

Give them a chance to choose occasionally. The irrational little human will feel respected and that their feelings are being considered. Ask your toddler if he or she wants to bring a favourite book in the car or take along a snack can make them feel as though he or she has some control over the situation while you remain in charge. Reasoning with a toddler is just one big power struggle after all!

Distraction is key

Make your toddler’s short attention span work for you. When your toddler is doing something that they shouldn’t be, redirect their attention to a more productive activity. It’s a lot easier than rushing to the timeout or bold step.

Give your toddler a break

Time-outs are one of the foundations of child discipline, but they may not be the best approach for the toddler stage. The negative implication of being sent away can teach kids that they’re bad rather than promote good behaviour.

If you do give your toddler a time-out, limit it to just a minute or two at this age. Instead of calling it a time-out, which can be confusing to your toddler, refer to it as something more positive- cosy corner or chill out space (a safe place free from distractions and stimulation where your child can just chill out for a few minutes until he or she can get back in control.) That time away can help you regroup as well.

Correct bad behaviour, but remember to also take the time to praise good behaviour. If you don’t tell your toddler when they’re doing the right thing, sometimes they’ll do the wrong thing just to get attention. When you tell your toddler he or she has done something good, there’s a good chance they will want to do it again.

Keep your cool

It’s easy for your blood pressure to reach boiling point when you’re watching your toddler throw a tantrum, but losing your cool will only quickly escalate an already stressful situation. It’s hard, we know, but try you’re best.

Sometimes the best tactic is to ignore the behaviour entirely. When your toddler realises that their screaming fit is not going to get them anywhere, eventually they’ll get tired  and stop.

Pick your battles

Certain things in a toddler’s life are non-negotiable. They have to eat, brush their teeth, and sit in a car seat when driving. They also have to take baths once in a while. Hitting and biting are never OK. But many other issues aren’t worth the headache of an argument so pick your battles.

You have to decide whether it’s worth fighting about, and about half the time it’s not worth fighting about.

Finally, know that it’s OK to feel stressed out by your toddler sometimes. No parents are perfect; you can only do the best that you can. There will be days that we’re better at this than other days but if we parent consistently and have consistent rules, then we’re going to see more good days than bad days.

Hang in there as one day, your toddler will surprise you and understand some reason.